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Peer workout group aims to change lives

Fitness, Fellowship and Faith (F3) in Unicoi County is seeking new members to join the workout group. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

The men of Fitness, Fellowship and Faith (F3) in Unicoi County are ready to get back to their normal routine.

“F3 is a national network of free, peer-led workouts for men,” F3 member Matthew Rice said. “Our mission is to plant, grow, and serve small workout groups for men for the invigoration of male community leadership.”

According to Rice, F3 started in 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and has grown to more than 30 states and more than 2,000 scheduled workouts a week through the volunteer efforts of men whose lives have been changed by their involvement with the group.

“F3 first came to Northeast Tennessee in 2016 and first launched in Erwin on April 1, 2017,” Rice said. “The group meets in the parking lot of Love Chapel Elementary School at 5:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. You may hear attendees refer to their workout location or Area of Operations (AO) in F3 lingo as Iron Valley.”

Rice acknowledges that the name Iron Valley is a play on Unicoi County’s recognition as “The Valley Beautiful” and the Bible Verse Proverbs 27:17.

“As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another,” Rice said quoting Proverbs 27:17.

According to Rice, these weekday workouts typically have six to 10 participants, but the group would like to see those numbers grow.

“We would love to have at least 20 regular participants,” Rice said.

There is a special workout meeting, known as a Convergence, that F3 had planned for April 11, but was canceled as part of social distancing efforts. The event will be rescheduled at a later date.

“The convergence is planned to recognize F3’s presence in Erwin for three years,” Rice said. “Men from all over the F3 Northeast Tennessee Region will travel to Erwin for the workout. Previous years have had 60 men attend the Convergence workout.”

According to Rice, all F3 workouts are free of charge, open to all men, held outdoors, rain or shine, heat or cold and are led by men who participate in the workout in a rotating fashion, with no training or certification necessary and will always end with a Circle of Trust.

Rice acknowledges that the group is made up of men of all ages and capabilities.

“Some of the F3 participants are able to bring their sons to the workouts, and we have men who workout who are in their 50s and 60s, so there really is not an age limit or fitness level requirement,” Rice said. “F3 is not a competition. Members are only trying to be better versions of themselves. The group holds each other accountable. We welcome men of all fitness levels to our workouts and we have no requirements for membership other than that you show up at the appointed time and place and follow what the workout leader (the “Q” in F3 lingo) does.”

F3 typically meets on the first Friday of each month to fellowship instead of working out.

“The F3 Erwin group forgoes the exercise to participate in a time of fellowship (coffee and breakfast) at Bojangles at the same time, 5:30 a.m.,” Rice said.

For Rice, the group exemplifies their credo.

“We try to live by the F3 credo which is, ‘Leave no man behind, but leave no man where you find him’,” Rice said.

For more information about F3 and how to join, please follow F3 Erwin on Facebook or visit the following websites at and